At last, I’ve got back to The Gambia along with many of our customers who can finally enjoy a well-deserved holiday and some winter sun.
After a break of 18 months without travel I was keen to see if there are any changes to the destination I’ve grown to know so well over my last 20 years with The Gambia Experience.
One thing that definitely hasn’t changed is the great service on board our Titan Airways flights out of LGW. Six hours wearing a mask isn’t ideal but definitely worth a little discomfort to be able to spend a week in warmer climes. In fact, I got so used to it that I tried to eat my meal without removing it! Several people made a point of speaking to me about how impressed they were with Star Class, and the food on board is excellent with a choice of hot meal throughout the aircraft. Arrival procedures at the refurbished airport in Banjul went smoothly and relatively quickly despite extra covid pass checks, and the new First Class Lounge for our returning Star Class passengers is far more spacious and the air-conditioning is very welcome prior to boarding the flight home. There is even a new lift!
First Class lounge at Banjul
Star Class catering
It was fantastic to catch up with our resort team during my visit – it has been extremely tough on the people of The Gambia without tourism for so long which they heavily rely on for boosting the economy. Although we supported the team throughout, our office was closed for many months and they have welcomed the chance to get back to work and meet up with our customers, many of them friendly faces who couldn’t wait to return to the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’. After such a long break we felt it only right to enjoy an evening out together to celebrate the return to some sort of normality.
Jatta, Karamo & Wally from our resort team
I visited all the hotels in our programme during my trip, including a quick hop over the border into Senegal to the Fathala Wildlife Reserve. I am happy to report that the ferry and border crossing is still straightforward with no requirement for Covid tests for those who are fully vaccinated, and it provides an interesting insight into African life, even if you arrive a bit hot and bothered - ready for a cold welcome drink. We are starting our day trip this week to give people the opportunity to experience a game drive, although I would still recommend spending a couple of nights over at the wonderful lodge for some fantastic memories.
Fathala Wildlife Reserve in Senegal
Some hotels are quieter than others but there are benefits in getting that prime spot around the pool or on the beach! I stayed at Kombo Beach Hotel which has a new general manager this year, although he has worked in The Gambia for several years in the past. The new à la carte menu is receiving very positive feedback and I ate very well there during my stay including freshly cooked pancakes for breakfast! It was also great to meet some of our customers at the management cocktail evening, some of whom have travelled to The Gambia instead of Goa this winter and discovered a great new destination. With its sandy beaches, amazing climate and friendly locals, what’s not to like – and no jet lag either so Goa’s loss is Gambia’s gain this winter.
Kotu beach next to Kombo Beach Hotel
Swimming pool at Mandina Lodges
Of course I ate out during my stay and the variety of different cuisines is still very much in evidence. We sampled Lebanese, Thai, steak and even sushi so for those who enjoy venturing outside the hotel you won’t be disappointed.
All-in-all it was fantastic to be able to visit The Gambia once more and see how resilient they have been during this challenging time, and to witness holidaymakers enjoying themselves.
Although recent travel regulation changes mean additional testing, this is not necessarily as expensive or onerous as you may think. Pre-bookable packages are available with some companies such as RANDOX (from £64.50 with discount code for your combined lateral flow AND day 2 PCR tests), enabling you to take a lateral flow test with you on holiday for ease.
I think everyone deserves a well-earned break, so why not go ahead and make that trip this winter? Take a look at our latest offers.